My Life With Anxiety

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I wish I could just sit here and share a new recipe with you. I wish I could talk about low fat coffee cake, crunchy apple bars and gooey caramel. But I can’t today. I have to talk about me and something I haven’t been 100% honest with you guys about.

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(Image via Pinterest)

I’m not dying. I’m not getting a divorce. I’m not pregnant nor was I. As the title precludes, today we’re going to talk about something deeply personal and hard. For the past year, I’ve been facing some really hard mental demons of my own. Instead of hiding from my diagnosis anymore I’m going to sit down and talk about it frankly with you guys. I’ve been living with severe anxiety for the past year and a half, and I think I’m ready to talk about it.

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People have so many misconceptions about anxiety. For one, everyone thinks they have it. My neighbor, my family members, every friend I confide in. They all believe they’re suffering from the same anxiety I face. And while I agree that everyone does face anxiety once or twice in their life, that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface at the amounts I face daily, hourly, every minute. So many people laugh when I tell them about it, saying “oh I have that too” or “exercise totally helps me” or “oh stop, everything’s fine.” My favorite though is “oh I’m sort of anxious about this and that, can I have a few of your xanaxs?”

Yes, people actually ask that. And people constantly belittle my disease saying it’s something I can just get over. Don’t you think I’d just get over it if I could? Don’t you think I would trade ANYTHING to not get physically sick when panic attacks hit or I break into a hysteria that leaves me broken? If I could just “get over it” I would have a long time ago.

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I’m not here though to bad mouth people who say those things, instead, I’m going to enlighten them and hopefully open the doors for people who are going through the same thing. See mental illness, despite it being 2015, is still something that carries a bit of a stigma. Anytime a major celebrity dies from depression or suicide, this conversation comes up again and again. “Why can’t they just seek help? Why didn’t anyone try to help them?” And there are even people who don’t think depression, anxiety or any mental ailment is a real struggle, they think it’s something a few pills and some therapy can help. Well, that works for some and it doesn’t for others. No wonder so many people hide their problems and deal with their struggles behind closed doors, so many people are so quick to judge them for having these kinds of problems. In a world where we broadcast our lives on social media and are constantly trying to portray our lives as perfect, it’s hard to sit there and go “I’m not perfect, and here’s why.”

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Trust me, writing this post isn’t easy for me. I struggle with so many inner demons, one of them being jealousy and inadequacy. I’m terrified of admitting that things aren’t shiny and glamorous, especially when it seems all of my friends and colleagues lead these post-card perfect lives. But I’m going to because I know I’m not the only person hiding behind the curtains, staring over at the neighbors greener lawn.

I’ve been struggling with some form of anxiety my entire life. As a kid, I was also a big worrier. My parents never saw that as a point of concern, they just noticed that I seemed to worry about everything, things 8 year olds shouldn’t worry about, like bills and college funds. As I grew up, some of that worrying faded and soon I was faced with the normal anxieties of a teenager. In college my anxiety deepened. It started to manifest itself inside of me and it scared me. Instead of talking to a therapist or confiding in my friends, I drank. I drank nonstop so I could stop feeling this constantly pull inside me that was weighing me down. Untreated anxiety can turn into many things, and my first two years of college it turned into depression. A depression I self medicated, which made things worse. A depression that finally forced me to open my eyes about my problems and find a solution.

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When I transferred schools, most of my depression went away, because I started talking to my family about it. Minus one very traumatic event my junior year, my anxiety had mostly dissipated. I still had it, well after graduation, our move to DC, my first job and break into freelancing. But it was manageable. The moment it became unmanageable was the day after the fire.

The fire left me completely broken. It changed everything about my life. I couldn’t leave my apartment without having a panic attack. I couldn’t walk down the street without having a fear that I’d come home to a burnt down house. Anytime I heard a fire truck, I literally had to take deep breaths to prevent myself from breaking down in public. Every single day was a personal nightmare for me, wondering what horrible thing could happen next.

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I wish I could sit here and say that moving to a safe new place and having a great year made all of my anxiety go away. I wish I could. But I can’t. My anxiety today is as severe as it was the day after the fire. I wake up every morning with a nervous pit in my stomach. From the moment I’m awake, my mind starts processing negative thoughts. I have frequent panic attacks where I feel like I can’t breathe or control myself. When I’m traveling, my thoughts are “my plane is going to crash” or “i’m going to get mugged.” People without anxiety can combat these thoughts easily by deducting odds and understanding chances. I can’t do that. My mind functions in a black and white way. It’s either this or that. I’ll either die in a fiery plane crash or I won’t. I’m constantly thinking of worst case scenarios.

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There was a moment last year where my anxiety completely took over while on a trip for work and I was so worked up, I couldn’t sleep, despite an early flight the next morning. I was so panicked, not even a call with my husband could calm me down and I ended up keeping him up most of the night as well.

That was a breaking point for me, I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore and neither could my husband. As soon as I got home, I talked with my primary care doctor about medicines that could help me deal with my anxiety. She prescribed me two kinds of medicine, one for daily anxiety and one for extreme situations. And I’m happy to report that after 8 months of taking the daily pill, I feel like I finally have some of my daily anxiety managed. But it’s not gone. I’m not someone who wants to spend their life mediciated, so I’ve recently started talking with a therapist. It’s scary at first, but incredible once you completely open yourself up to them. I was reserved, but now I look forward to our meetings every week. She doesn’t judge me or make me feel like I’m crazy for the thoughts. Instead she and I find ways I can handle it without the need for panic attacks or higher dosage medication.

I know my anxiety will never go away and that’s something I just have to find a way to live with. But I do know that I can finally manage it in a way that doesn’t leave me dependent on medicine. It’s been a very hard road and very windy one, but I’m here and I’m so grateful to have the support of the people around me. And I’m grateful to you guys for listening and letting me post this. To anyone who is facing crippling anxiety or any mental illness, don’t be scared anymore. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t be a slave to your demons, conquer them.

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If I can, you can. And that’s a promise.

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Comments

  1. Posted by Emily on
    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    Proud of you for sharing this. <3
    • Posted by Anna aka Nina on
      Monday, January 12th, 2015
      Jodi,
      I loved your encouragement for Claire with scripture. I have suffered anxiety myself and several yrs ago I was blessed with an awesome Christian therapist. I still have things that set me off from time to time and if I will quote my scriptures that help me in that area commit my anxiety to the Lord in prayer & have a few close friends to share with and pray with me. Things begin to turn around.
  2. Posted by Jodi on
    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    Dear Claire, thank you so much for sharing such personal issues with us. I can imagine there will be many who can relate to your struggles. I don't have anxiety, but we can all understand those thoughts about others having perfect lives. As a Christian, I know that even the shiniest personalities and lives have to contend with spiritual battles. I'm reminded of this passage (although heavy-duty, it gives me strength and understanding when I read it.

    Ephesians 6:10-18

    10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

    Glad to hear you are feeling better - hope our paths cross again soon!
    Big hug - Jodi
  3. Posted by Jennifer on
    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    Very brave. Thanks for sharing and I wish you peace.
  4. Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    Sending you a virtual hug Claire as well as prayers. You're very brave for sharing this and I'm sure you are helping others by doing so.
  5. Posted by The Food Hunter on
    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    Great post...thanks for sharing your deepest feelings with us.
  6. Posted by Cookin Canuck on
    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    This is such a brave post, Claire. Thank you for sharing your struggles with us, and talking about your experiences in a way that will open the door for so many others to talk about their own struggles.
  7. Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    People tend to be dismissive of things they don't understand. I'm so sorry you have had to suffer for so long - I can't imagine. Praying you find a long term solution so you can feel free!
  8. Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    Thanks for sharing this with us. I know it can't be easy. I have very personal reasons why I'm thankful for this post, so I appreciate it. I will keep you in my prayers.
  9. Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    I'm sending you lots of love. I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this. :( I'm really glad that you're learning to manage it though.
  10. Posted by Brenda@Sugar-Free Mom on
    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    You have got some great courage just sharing everything you did and being so transparent. I'm happy you are recovering one day at a time.
  11. Posted by Linda Martin on
    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    Many hugs-I know now that I have some anxiety and it was/is the cause of my stomach issues. Also, when I was in college I got so depressed that I just stopped. I now know it was anxiety-pressure (from me) to get good grades, to date (which I wasn't), wondering what was wrong with me. I know I should have gone to a therapist or counselor, but I didn't want to admit that there was an issue (especially not then). I've 'grown' now, but still have bouts on occasions (stressing over things mainly). I'm glad you got the help you need to work through this. I'm sure it wasn't easy, but needed!
  12. Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    I am really glad you decided to share this. Anxiety (and any other mental illness) really is sort of taboo. It kind of drives me nuts that it is never considered as serious (I had friends tell me I was just seeking attention). You only break down the walls by talking about it and sharing experiences!
  13. Posted by Theodora on
    Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    Thank you for sharing this. I also suffer from severe anxiety and am incredibly thankful for a great therapist and meds. My therapist was away over the holidays and I also found meditation really helpful then, too, and need to remember to stick with it.
  14. Posted by Rose | The Clean Dish on
    Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    Wow - that was unexpected and much appreciated. Thanks for sharing this with us, Claire. There are so many parallels in our lives, more than I'd like to admit. You are not alone - far from it but it sounds like you already know that. I'm so glad to hear you have found ways to cope with your anxiety. A good therapist makes the world of a difference! The best of luck, Claire. You're on the right track :)
  15. Posted by Kate @ Diethood on
    Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    By sharing this, you are helping so many others. I couldn't wait to get to the end because I SO wanted it to say that you were healed. I want a happy ending and you're on your way! HUGS to you Claire! Thank you for sharing!! XOXO
  16. Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    I'm sending lots of hugs and positive thoughts your way! It must have been incredibly difficult to write this post but I think it's great that you did. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. I hope it gets better and better and eventually completely goes away.
  17. Posted by Heather // girlichef on
    Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    I think that it was incredibly brave for you to share this with us. It's a reminder to me that everyone has their "demons" and that they come in all shapes and sizes, and that we never really know what another person is going through. I know we don't really know each other, but I'd give you a big squeeze if I could.
  18. Posted by Julie C on
    Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    Thank you so much for this post. I know you've taken such a courageous step to share your battles with anxiety. This post brought me to tears reading your post because I have experienced so much of what you wrote here. It hurts so much to have your struggles belittled by others who don't understand the reality of mental illnesses and how it affects people.

    You're such a brave woman and I am so proud of you for sharing this. Stay strong and know that no one else's opinions can get you down!
  19. Posted by foodwanderings on
    Thursday, January 8th, 2015
    It's good to process your feeling and emotions through your personal space. There are a lot of people, including myself, who this outlet helped them through some rough times. Thinking of you. S
  20. Posted by Angela {Mind Over Batter} on
    Friday, January 9th, 2015
    I think it's incredibly brave of you to share with us your battles with anxiety. I've suffered bouts of anxiety and they're paralyzing; I couldn't imagine suffering from it every day of your life, let alone having the people around you minimize your struggle - or even attempt to identify with you. I'm glad you've gotten help and you're doing much better. Hugs, Claire.
  21. Posted by Nutmeg Nanny on
    Friday, January 9th, 2015
    I see a therapist weekly now and that has helped with a lot of my anxiety and depression. I was waking up with horrible dreams and shutting down anytime I had to think about something that scared me. I stopped traveling because I was scared of dying in a plane crash and made ridiculous excuses as to why I no longer needed or wanted to travel. I finally talked to my doctor and got something that helped me fly. I was still scared but at least I did it. I know everyone says this but I really do get what you are going through. I'm going through the same thing week after week. I'm seeking help and it's getting better but it's still there. One day at a time my love.
  22. Posted by Bea on
    Saturday, January 10th, 2015
    Good for you!!! What a great post and advice to not hide behind demons but to conquer them.

    I wish you much strength!
  23. Posted by Anna aka Nina on
    Monday, January 12th, 2015
    Claire,
    Thank you so much for sharing :)
    I too have had some anxiety problems as I mentioned n my reply to Jodi I had a wonderful christian counselor that helped out several yrs ago and now when I have things that begin to set me down the never ending circle n my mind. I quote some scriptures and call a few lose friends and ask thme to pray and most of the time I am on my way health and abundant living again.
  24. Posted by Jim Jozwiak on
    Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
    One way to approach anxiety is to think of it
    not as a mental issue but as a physical issue.
    Really, it is just the brain complaining that
    liver is not supplying enough power, either
    blood sugar or ketones, so the brain can be
    confident in the immediate future. Perhaps
    there is "pre-diabetes" and decreasing carbs and increasing fat might help.
  25. Friday, January 16th, 2015
    I know it took a great deal of strength to share this post, but I think it sheds light on the disease and helps others understand that it's not some petty, made-up diagnosis. It's a real disease with real struggles. I think others feel the same way you do, but they're afraid to admit to themselves that they have a problem or afraid to seek help. I think your bravery will go a long way. Sending thoughts, prayers, and hugs your way.
    • Posted by Dora on
      Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
      This does look prnigsiom. I'll keep coming back for more.
  26. Posted by Laini on
    Sunday, February 22nd, 2015
    Have you tried the Anxiety & Phobia Workbook? I personally could not afford a therapist when I went thru the worst of my anxiety thus far. And being able to read and interpret how to channel more positive thoughts on my own was empowering in itself.
  27. Posted by Jacqueline luckhurst on
    Friday, July 17th, 2015
    I don't usually read blogs, I flick through Pinterest and Nick quotes, but your blog came up following the "on the other side of fear lies freedom" quote and I was sucked in and mesmerised by your blog.
    You are very brave and honest and although like most people I have the odd day of doubt, your blog took me momentarily into your world and quite how scary that was for you.
    I am so pleased that you were strong enough to seek the help that so many don't and thank you for sharing your experience , I feel I understand a bit more now, thank you.
    And here's to your continued health x
  28. Posted by Rosemary on
    Friday, January 1st, 2016
    pls contact me & I shall send u some info important to understand & help yrself (as u have PP)- so pls mention this when u email me**